Hamilton praises Vettel, wants title battle with Verstappen & Leclerc

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Lewis Hamilton has praised the credentials of long-time rival Sebastian Vettel and spoken highly of two growing threats on the grid.

The two most successful drivers of their generation went head-to-head over the past seasons, with the Briton coming out on top on both occasions.

However, over the past year, it has been Vettel's mistakes which have gotten the most attention, leading some to wonder if he has passed his peak.

"I don’t think anything has happened to him," Hamilton claimed.

"He and the team have struggled and had some difficult races and he obviously has a new youngster next to him who is doing well so it doesn’t appear to be the easiest of time but he is still a four-time world champion so people can be quite forgetful.

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"I remember that he is a four-time world champion and a formidable competitor so we have to keep the respect there and expect him to come back strong."

Right now, however, it is the emergence of the next generation which appears to be the main threat to Hamilton and his position on top with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc leading the charge.

"Absolutely, we’ve seen a big step from Red Bull, they’ve taken a leap forward with their power unit this year which is great to see and I think they are only going to go from strength to strength with that," he said.

"Max is not really a youngster in the sport anymore, he is young but he has been here for a few years, while Charles is young and is only in his second season so he has a lot of growing that he will experience and I can only see him getting stronger.

"We are already seeing some great experiences from him already so that one I am particularly eager to look out for. Whether Ferrari are going to pick up their pace I don’t know as they are up and down at the moment."

It is possible the title challenge from the two 21-year-old's could come as soon as 2020, and Hamilton would welcome that battle.

"I’m always down, I’m always ready [for a closer title fight] it just has not always been the case every year," he admitted.

"We are a pretty strong team and again we work so well, we have the best teamwork here and our processes. The environment is no better anywhere else."